The compulsively readable, behind-the-scenes memoir that takes readers inside the Obama White House, through the eyes of a young staffer learning the ropes, falling in love, and finding her place in the world.
From the Corner of the Oval: A Memoir by Beck Dorey-Stein Published by Spiegel & Grau (July 10, 2018) Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir/Politics/Obama White House Source: ARC provided by NetGalley Format: Kindle, 352 pages ASIN: B076NSTK6F
FCC Disclaimer:I received a copy of an ARC from NetGalley via the publisher in exchange for an honest and fair review. Opinions expressed are my own.
In 2012, Beck Dorey-Stein was just scraping by in DC when a posting on Craigslist landed her, improbably, in the Oval Office as one of Barack Obama’s stenographers. The ultimate DC outsider, she joined the elite team who accompanied the president wherever he went, recorder and mic in hand. On whirlwind trips across time zones, Beck forged friendships with a tight group of fellow travelers–young men and women who, like her, left their real lives behind to hop aboard Air Force One in service of the president. But as she learned the ropes of protocol, Beck became romantically entangled with a consummate DC insider, and suddenly, the political became all too personal. Set against the backdrop of a White House full of glamour, drama, and intrigue, this is the story of a young woman making unlikely friendships, getting her heart broken, learning what truly matters, and discovering her voice in the process.
“[C]ompulsively readable” describes From the Corner of the Oval so well. Once I started reading this memoir I couldn’t put it down.
Beck Dorey-Stein writes with the pen of a former English teacher. She writes descriptive scenes and characters. Her authenticity shines through and seeds of humor drop along the way.
Unlike Dorey-Stein, I’d never think of using Craig’s List to find a job. Dorey-Stein thought nothing of it. And she ends up working as a stenographer in the Obama White House. Work days include trips around the world and across the country on Air Force One.
Eager to make friends and fit in, Dorey-Stein finds herself tangled up in a romance. She shares stories of love, heartbreak, and sadness. Not overlooked are work-related stories from the White House. I found the romance somewhat distracting. Yet I accepted it as part of life for any 20-something no matter where she worked.
This is not a tell-all book from behind closed doors in the White House. It is Dorey-Stein’s story of landing the job and learning the ins and outs of the White House. She also meets famous people and travels the globe. Dorey-Stein lives the stories we read and watch in the media.
I applaud Dorey-Stein’s first published work as well-written and engaging. For this reason, and the humor woven throughout, I highly recommend From the Corner of the Oval.
Meet the Author:
Beck Dorey-Stein is a native of Narberth, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Wesleyan University. Prior to her five years in the White House, she taught high school English in Hightstown, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; and Seoul, South Korea.
It is 1965, the era of love, light and revolution. While the romantic narrator imagines a bucolic future in an old country house with children running through the dappled sunlight, her husband plots to organize a revolution and fight a guerrilla war in the Catskills.
Their fantasies are on a collision course.
The clash of visions turns into an inner war of identities when the author embraces radical feminism; she and her husband are comrades in revolution but combatants in marriage; she is a woman warrior who spends her days sewing long silk dresses reminiscent of a Henry James novel. One half of her isn’t speaking to the other half.
And then, just when it seems that things cannot possibly get more explosive, her wilderness cabin burns down and Pamela finds herself left with only the clothes on her back.
From her vividly evoked existential childhood (“the only way I would know for sure that I existed was if others lots of others acknowledged it”) to writing her first children’s book on a sugar high during a glucose tolerance test, Pamela Jane takes the reader along on a highly entertaining personal, political, and psychological adventure.
Paperback: 246 pages Genre: Memoir Publisher: Open Books Press (February 1, 2016) ISBN-10: 1941799213 ISBN-13: 978-1941799215 Amazon Link
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author via WOW! Women on Writing in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine.
Yet, as I went further into Pamela’s story and reminisced about my coming-of-age in the 1960s, I began to see the reason and validity behind the pacing. The writing style is reflective of not only the time period and its unrest but also what it felt like to be living Pamela Jane’s life. Uncertain which way to turn. Invisible, ignored, invalid, unworthy and more. What a life for a young person! It was daunting and anxiety-filled.
Pamela Jane’s writing is honest and filled with the hurts from a family life which included a mentally ill mother and a distant father. She shares freely of her parents’ dysfunctional marriage and its impact on her. Like many of us from similar situations, Pamela loses herself in the world of books and reading.
As she comes into her own, Pamela shares her dreams and hopes as a women coming into her own even though her own life conflicts with these dreams and hopes.
Character and scene descriptions are rich with detail so real it palpates on the page. I could smell the smells, feel emotions, see what Pamela saw. This was a highly engaging story rich in imagery and words. As a child of the 1960s living in my own dysfunctional family, I related to Pamela Jane’s story on several levels.
As readers, we hold in our hands a gem, a well-written and powerful memoir rich in the use of words and detail. I highly recommend it.
MEET PAMELA JANE
Pamela Jane has published over twenty-five children’s books with Houghton Mifflin, Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, Penguin-Putnam, and Harper. Her books include Noelle of the Nutcracker illustrated by Jan Brett, Little Goblins Ten illustrated by NY Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning, and Little Elfie One (Harper 2015). Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic (Skyhorse) was featured in The Wall Street Journal, BBC America, The Huffington Post, The New York Times Sunday Book Review and The Daily Dot, and has just come out in paper. Pamela Jane has published short stories and essays with The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Antigonish Review, Literary Mama. Pamela Jane is a writer and editor for womensmemoirs.com.